I work with WebAssembly every day for Wonderland Engine. This means I built a lot of development infrastructure around it, making it easy to start new WASM based projects. This is the post mortem of a project that failed, but at least had some merit to its motivation that I want to document here.
One of my weaknesses is that I love starting new projects. Not because I get bored of the previous, but because I come up with more and more ideas I find worth pursuing.
A sheer endless source of opportunity, for example, is the trend of the web to converge to native performance with new APIs like WebAssembly and WebGPU.
This means that many applications that can run on the web, will run on the web and dominate over their native counterparts, because of the convenience of access, superior speed of development and rapid permissionless deployment.
Cost of Bandwidth
I realised that online converter tools usually convert files by uploading them to a server, where they wait in a queue to be converted, cached and sent back to the user on download.
Today, with WebAssembly, you can many file conversions efficiently enough directly on the web page, client side. That saves a lot of money on the server infrastructure side.
I figured out, that there’s an environmental cost to bandwidth as well, and since climate change is such an important topic nowadays, I was fixed on trying to change the entire online converter industry for the better… in a weekend.
WebConverter.app would convert basic image files and count the kilograms of CO2 that were saved by using the converter over one that does up- and downloads.
Zero Operating Cost
Using WebAssembly, I didn’t need servers to do the conversion. The web app could be a super light weight static website that can even be served on Giltab Pages, which is free! It even has Let’s Encrypt integrated for free SSL certificates.
My total operating cost would therefore amount to zero. (I am paying for the domain, but that is fairly neglible.)
Online converter tools are a hypercompetitive overcrowded market. They compete through SEO or ads on search and need to make enough via ads on their page to be able to justify the user acquisition cost. Often that revenue is augmented by some premium subscription offer.
I had one huge advantage and one huge disadvantage: I have 0 cost of serving a user (no bandwidth or server-side compute cost), but way less formats I my converter could convert.
Additionally, WebConverter.app is an installable web app (PWA), which could yield higher retention rates, increasing ARPU (average revenue per user) with static CAC (customer acquisition cost).
Reducing the carbon footprint could be a powerful marketing advantage.
In theory this means that I can pay more for user acquisition on Google Ads as my margins are higher. But in practice, Google Adsense did not accept my page due to lack of “quality content”, so unfortunally, the experiment ended here.
I have effectively found an interesting business that I could pull off through my specific technical background, which in hindsight mostly acts as a small ego boost and was a fun excercise. It requires more than a weekend to actually set in motion and is now in the realm of other skillsets.
I don’t believe I’ll spend more time on this project, but feel free to drop a message, if you believe that you can make something out of this technical base with your writing, SEO or marketing skills.
Technological efficienty is more ecological and can be an economical advantage.